Micro Climates Blog (for popup)

Posted on November 14th, 2010

San Francisco Micro Climates

San Francisco is a city of roughly 44 hills and numerous valleys sitting at the tip of a peninsula. For roughly eight months of the year (March – October) there is a big difference between the air temperature over the Pacific Ocean (the marine layer, low 60’s) and the warm inland air temperature of the central San Joaquin Valley (90’s – 100+.)

This warm inland air rises and draws cooler air from the Pacific towards the inland areas. This draw, combined with the many hills and valleys of our city, including the various high coastal bluffs and low-lying beaches, create dramatic and pronounced micro climates within the city.

The cool coastal fog gets trapped in western and central low-lying areas. As air is drawn eastward through valleys and around elevated peaks, the fog burns off and the air temperature rises from the warming effect of the land.

The most commonly seen evidence of this phenomenon takes place when the fog is drawn through the lowest point in the bay area: The Golden Gate. On many occasions in the summer, you will see the “fog finger” move through “the gate” and be pulled north of Alcatraz into the East Bay hills from Berkeley up towards Richmond and then north and east.

However, this fog does not only come in through the gate. There are numerous points of dramatic elevation changes along the coast line from the high coastal bluffs of Sea Cliff, the Presidio and Fort Funston to the low, gradually sloping terrain we see moving east from Ocean Beach.

One of the most pronounced areas of change takes place in the Sunset District during the summer months, when the fog is “in.” As you travel from Ocean Beach at the western edge of the city towards Mount Sutro, the fog slowly thins out and burns off. It then hits a string of hills including Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights.

These hills often hold the fog from moving further east. In the lee of these hills are the neighborhoods known as Eureka Valley (aka The Castro), Noe Valley, Mission Dolores and the Inner Mission. You will often see a temperature difference of 5 – 10 degrees over a distance of roughly 2 to 3 miles from the Sunset to Eureka Valley.

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